Table for One

Author's note: This post is a week late because none of my passwords are on the other computer and the squarespace blog app BLOWS (love the site but seriously, get your mobile game together)

This morning, I dropped my boyfriend off at the airport. I had an errand to run near Green Lake, so I drove up, did a slow lap, picked up my race packet for tomorrow's run, and headed home.

Being alone for breakfast, I did what we all do: found a table for one.   Today, that was at Cheeky Cafe right next to my old apartment.

There are a million reasons to love this place, not the least of which is the nostalgia that comes with it. My friends and I used to fill tables and then all order tomato soup and grilled cheese when we needed a break between board games.

This place is special for another reason though, one I'd either forgotten or just taken for granted. It's kind of a 'table for one' haven.  

Back when I lived next door, this was my home. It was a place my ex husband approved of, so long as I wasn't with anyone he didn't approve of (which meant anyone who wasn't him). When he deployed, it meant I could enjoy a meal by myself without feeling judged by the host or other patrons because half the dining room was people eating solo.  

Those meals turned into a kind of unplugged escape for me when it was rough between him and I (which was always). They sometimes were followed by movies by myself, especially when I needed to extend the outing and disappear into a happy fantasy. 

Now I'm living that happy, healthy, loving life I was dreaming of just a few years ago.  Brunch gets to just be awesome eggs and deep-fried French toast (at least as good as it sounds). It gets to be a quiet pause of appreciation; one that I can enjoy so much more because of those people I wasn't "allowed" to be here with.

Confessions of a Pho Hater

About three years ago, I pitched this idea to Seattle Weekly after they tweeted a call out for food writers. I got a huge amount of pushback on it once it was published online, which kind of proved my main point about how militant this specific set of consumers can be. Since writing and publishing this piece, I have since come around to enjoying pho under specific circumstances (basically when it's that foggy misty cold that Seattle gets or when I have a cold). Most of it still holds true, though.

Before filling my website with the "you just haven't had the right pho" or "how dare you?!?" comments that I know you're tempted by, check out the original article's comments and make sure I haven't yet heard it.


I have a confession. Brace yourself. Are you ready?

I hate pho. I loathe it. It is the only food I would turn down if it was offered to me free. It is the only time I will tell my friends no when invited out and not already busy. The first time I had it, I was apathetic. Now, three additional attempts later, it is my enemy.

Before I go any further, I should clarify two things.

I really love food. I’ve been known to get giggly or even teary-eyed when I eat something really good. I can name you plates I’ve had that have changed how I look at the world.

Additionally, even if I really hate something I’ve eaten, I will try it on at least two different occasions. After that, I give up and move on to better things.

Very occasionally, I try things I don’t like more than twice. Pho is one of two of those occasions. The only reason I have put myself through this experience of eating this awful dish so many times is because of the reaction I get when I tell people that I don’t like it.

In Seattle, specifically my neighborhood, pho is a cult. I watch people eat it at all hours of the day. Disowning pho is like telling a vegan how much you love KFC. Almost every single time, people need to tell me how wrong I am and how I must try it at their place and add just the right amount of Sriracha and not doing this is why I didn’t like it.

I don’t like it because it’s just bland noodles and sort-of salty broth. Seriously, that’s it. I really think you guys think it’s much more than that. Yes, I realize it usually has meat and some weird veggies in it, but bean sprouts and Thai basil also aren’t that good. Not even lime can save it, and that says something. All four of my experiences have involved eating pho just the way the person who dragged me there told me to eat it, and three of those times have been at highly-rated restaurants and none of that has made a difference.

Pho takes a lot of work to eat. I know a lot of people who swear by pho as a hangover cure, and as the perfect sick food. But this soup is arduous and messy when you’re healthy and hydrated. I can’t imagine trying to put together the magical potion of perfect pieces when you’re distracted by dehydration or the sniffles.

My real dissatisfaction comes from expectations that have been failed to be met. Everyone who tries to convert me swears pho is the best thing ever and that not liking it makes me a hedonistic mutant. Being at least pho-tolerant would make my life so much easier. As it is, this soup has never made me feel anything except frustration and disappointment.

It’s time to face the music, Seattleites. Pho is awful. Can we please stop pretending it isn’t?